By Michael Mariotte

Every successful campaign for social change causes reaction. After all, if the campaign weren’t hitting at vested interests, weren’t causing disruption for some entity, then there would be no need for a campaign–its goals would simply be adopted by acclamation.

Indeed, campaigns that don’t generate reaction are campaigns that don’t succeed: that means they haven’t attained enough attention or backing to matter to their targets.

Thus, it’s always a source of initial gratification when, after launching a new campaign, reaction sets in. When you can see you’ve struck a nerve. When your opposition attacks you directly. And that high point is elevated further when the best attack your opposition can muster is one against the least important of your arguments.

So it is that the international Don’t Nuke the Climate Campaign, for which NIRS is the U.S. member, last week began feeling that warm gratification, that recognition that we are beginning to have an impact. Because we’ve been attacked by name for the first–but surely not the last–time.

A small group of Finnish people, who call themselves “ecomodernists” and are affiliated with a group called Energy for Humanity have taken it upon themselves to launch the first direct attack on the Don’t Nuke the Climate campaign, in an essay titled A Most Unwise Campaign. The essay appears to be a follow-up to a self-published tract called Climate Gamble: Is anti-nuclear activism endangering our future? They’re planning to distribute 5,000 copies of these at COP 21 in Paris over the next two weeks in an effort to promote nuclear power and beat back our campaign.

Following the distorted and factually-challenged logic of James Hansen, the group begins by repeating the familiar argument that renewable energy cannot scale up fast enough to solve the climate crisis, that decarbonization of the world’s power supply isn’t happening quickly enough, and that, ergo, we need a massive amount of new nuclear power.

What does “massive” mean? The authors don’t say, but the World Nuclear Association is less shy: today it issued a statement calling for 1,000 Gigawatts (about 1,000 large reactors) of new nuclear power by mid-century.

More on that argument in a minute.

The essay then shifts gears to focus on one issue: the carbon footprint of nuclear power, which it calls our “key argument.” Actually, it isn’t. Indeed, we readily admit that nuclear power is a low-carbon energy source when compared to fossil fuels. We assert that it is high carbon compared to renewables, but really, that’s all relative. And while the essay devotes considerable effort to try (unsuccessfully) to debunk Professor Benjamin Sovacool’s 2008 meta-analysis of studies comparing carbon footprints of various energy sources (the authors argue a study showing nuclear as relatively high-carbon should be excluded, although excluding such studies, without excluding studies showing nuclear with an essentially undetectable carbon footprint, defeats the purpose of a meta-analysis), if nuclear’s carbon footprint were really our key argument, the campaign would be far less compelling than it is–and far less threatening to …read more

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